Incorporating life cycle assessment (LCA) in freight transportation infrastructure project evaluation

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



© Copyright 2017 ASME. Transportation industry at large is a major consumer of fossil fuels and contributes heavily to the global greenhouse gas emissions. A significant portion of these emissions come from freight transportation and decisions on mode/route may affect the overall scale of emissions from a specific movement. It is common to consider several alternatives for a new freight activity and compare the alternatives from economic perspective. However, there is a growing emphasis for adding emissions to this evaluation process. One of the approaches to do this is through Life Cycle Assessment (LCA); a method for estimating the emissions, energy consumption and environmental impacts of the project throughout its life cycle. Since modal/route selections are often investigated early in the planning stage of the project, availability of data and resources for analysis may become a challenge for completing a detailed LCA on alternatives. This research builds on such detailed LCA comparison performed on a previous case study by Kalluri et al. (2016), but it also investigates whether a simplified LCA process that only includes emissions from operations phase could be used as a less resource intensive option for the analysis while still providing relevant outcomes. The detailed LCA is performed using SimaPro software and simplified LCA is performed using GREET 2016 model. The results are obtained in terms of Kg CO2 equivalents of GHG emissions. This paper introduces both detailed and simplified methodologies and applies them to a case study of a nickel and copper mine in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The analysis' are done for three modal alternatives (two truck routes and one rail route) and for multiple mine lives.

Publication Title

2017 Joint Rail Conference, JRC 2017